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UN Says Crisis In Kyrgyzstan Not Over

The United Nations refugee agency says all the refugees may have left Uzbekistan, but the crisis in Kyrgyzstan is far from over.

Ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan caused a mass exodus of Uzbek refugees into neighboring Uzbekistan.

Now, barely three weeks later, practically all of the estimated 100,000 refugees have returned to Kyrgyzstan. Only 395 refugees who need hospital treatment remain in Uzbekistan.

U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards says the agency is now concentrating its emergency programs on helping the returnees and those internally displaced in Kyrgyzstan.

"The crisis is not over," Edwards says. "375,000 people represent a considerable population still in need of humanitarian support."

Edwards agrees the rapidity of the returns seems to call into question whether the refugees came back voluntarily.

He says UNHCR teams have visited several neighborhoods in Osh over the past few days to assess the situation. And, aid workers have seen widespread destruction in the area with nearly all the houses set on fire.

"People are still deeply traumatized by the violence of earlier this month," Edwards says. "In these neighborhoods, we are seeing still many people are sleeping in the open, often within completely destroyed homes and yards. UNHCR was the first humanitarian team to visit the area. There are no services, as you have heard, such as water and electricity. In many parts of the city, people report being deprived of health services. Many have lost identity documents either through looting or in fires."

The government reports more than 10,000 internally displaced people have returned to their homes in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan. Edwards says the UNHCR is unable to confirm the remaining numbers of displaced.

The agency reports the U.N. High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, will travel to Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday and Thursday to assess its emergency operations and to press for protection of the civilian population. He is expected to meet with government officials including the president.

He says the high commissioner will look at the humanitarian needs of the displaced and assess safety concerns.